Have you ever seen Karate Kid? It has the perfect example of incidental exercise where the master asks the student to put his jacket on and off (or in the original version, wax on and off) repeatedly for days as training.
When the student expressed frustration at this boring “training”, the master reveals that he had been learning defensive blocks through muscle memory from the chores. When the master tests the student by attacking him, the student was able to block, amazed at what he had learned.
In the Jackie Chan version, he further explained that “Kung Fu lives in everything we do…everything is Kung Fu”, implying that the way in which we approach our physical labours can improve our overall strength and physical prowess.
In a sense, the chores that come with being a mother are the same. Every task is an incidental exercise worthy of being an equivalent to a workout program. It could be lifting your child, pushing your kid’s stroller, chasing your kid across the room, or hanging clothes on a clothesline.
Don’t believe me? Here’s the incidental exercise you’ve been doing all this time.
Incidental exercise: How mummies work out and they don’t even know it
1. Pushing a grocery cart
Shopping around the supermarket while pushing a cart slowly filling up with heavy stuff can burn around 350 calories. And it gets even harder when you’ve got kids mixed in with all the groceries. Maneuvering the cart around takes a lot of muscle control as well.
2. Carrying your baby and calming them down
You can’t lay down a baby with reflux for up to an hour so it can be difficult to settle them down. Same goes for a baby who’s taking a while to stop crying.
It’s brutal when you’re sleep-deprived, and the constant arm and leg movement really tires you out. So much so that going to bed after an hour of this feels like you’ve just lifted weights and did squats.
3. Getting up from bed (to help your child sleep)
This is sort of related from the previous item. You also repeatedly engage your core by getting up from bed every few minutes. You may have lost sleep but you’ve got a strong core and strong arms through this type of incidental exercise!
4. Wrestling a dirty diaper off or on your baby
Diaper on, diaper off would have been Mr. Miyagi’s training for you. It’s a struggle to wrestle with your baby’s strong legs while making sure the diaper’s content do not get into anything. It becomes even more challenging once they learn to stand and run around (and kick). Frustrating, but an incredible work out for your arms and core.
5. Carrying children and grocery bags into the house
Carrying the weight of children and several grocery bags, even with your husband’s help, can be challenging, and really engages your arms, legs, and torso.
6. Doing chores while carrying your baby
Whether it’s carrying your baby by strapping them to your chest or just carrying them with one arm while doing chores with another, you’ll still burn a lot of energy with this kind of task. You’ll get strong arms and legs just from lifting them and walking them around.
7. Hanging clothes on the clothesline
This one is very much a Karate Kid incidental exercise. You lift and carry a heavy laundry basket, then you squat over to pick up the fresh laundry.
Just make sure you bend and squat properly so you don’t ruin your back. Then stand up straight before lifting your arms to hang the clothes on the clothesline. Then, repeat. After a while, your arms, legs, and back will get stronger. Bend, life, stretch.
This is slightly similar to pushing a cart or mowing the lawn, but also really different. You do push or pull something around but you also bend more and engage your arms and core more.
Your external obliques, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominal, diaphragm, trapezius, and the multifidus muscles are engaged in this task.
9. Picking up stuff your children left on the floor, or gardening
Here, you’ll be able to practice squatting and lunging. Make sure you do this right so as not to hurt your back. This is perfect for your back and thighs. This can also apply to gardening, like pulling out weeds, digging small holes, or trimming short shrubs.
10. Running (or chasing your toddler)
This is the equivalent of jogging. Or depending on your child, sprinting. Worried your child might go somewhere they’re not supposed to go? Run after them.
Are they carrying something dangerous while running away? Run after them! It’s great cardio. And there’s a rewarding feeling to having them safe in your arms once you catch them.
It may not be too strenuous muscle-wise but it sure burns up a lot of calories (around 500, in fact!). And you engage your arms here, too!
Mums, you never have to feel guilty about not working out again! Just chase after your tot, hang some clothes, or spring-clean your home, knowing that you’re getting some good incidental exercise in the process!